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Telethons : Spectacle, Disability, and the Business of Charity (Hardcover) (Paul K. Longmore)

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Looking back at postwar US history, it seems that a telethon accompanied every social ill, disability, disease, and natural disaster. A unique combination of entertainment and charity, this form of fundraising became a fixture in American life not long after NBC broadcast the first one, hosted by Milton Berle, in 1949. Conceived specifically for the new medium of television, the telethon--a portmanteau of "television" and "marathon"--became the fundraising vehicle of choice for the nation's leading charitable organizations. Marshaling two decades' worth of painstaking research, Telethons provides the first cultural history of the popular phenomenon. It charts the rise of the telethon as a result of five influential charities (most notably, the Muscular Dystrophy Association) and profiles the key figures--philanthropists, politicians, celebrities, corporate sponsors, and recipients--involved. The book also serves as a chronicle of disabilty history in the postwar US, as Longmore shows the changing depiction of the disabled-from objects of pity in the Fifties and Sixties to figures of empowerment in the late twentieth century. A significant portion of the book analyzes the various clashes between telethon-producing charities and activists in the disability rights movement that have become increasingly frequent since the 1970s. Throughout, Telethons explores familiar staples of the genre such as "poster children," the comedic emcee, and the concept of "conspicuous contribution."

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